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Archive for January, 2010

Mike Knuble assists Nicklas Backstrom score the Caps 1st goal last night in their 4-1 win over Florida. Knuble himself had two goals to bring up his total to 12 goals in the last 11 games.

It’s funny because last night, there were periods of time, just like there were against Anaheim on Wednesday night, where the Caps did not look like the better team on the ice.  Yet, just as against Anaheim, the game was even.  Then as I continued to watch, I realized that Florida, like Anaheim, was absolutely playing it’s butt off and at the end of the day, it still couldn’t muster more than a tie against the Caps.  Then, just as they did against Anaheim, the Caps turned on the jets and allowed us in the waning minutes to ponder not whether the Caps would win, but whether the Caps would treat another sell-out crowd at Verizon center to a set of free wings. 

No wings, but two more points for the Caps.

The big news of the night was Mike Green’s injury which thankfully does not seem that severe.  As I write this, news is out that Green will be suspended for 3 games for his elbow against the Panthers player.  After seeing the replay, I think Green did allow his elbow to leave his body a little bit, but since he is a 1st time offender, I don’t get such a harsh penalty. 

What bothers me more is that the Panthers player was not whistled or suspended for a hit that in my opinion was much like the one OV was suspended for a couple of months ago.

It’s almost like the league wants to suspend the Caps since we are the most high-scoring and exciting team in the sport.  By suspending the team that draws the most fans in the NHL, the league is saying that it won’t tolerate hits it deems to be over the top.  The problem I have with this, like all such penalties, is that other players who commit much dirtier plays, (a.k.a Mike Richards in Philly), knock players out for the season without reprecussion.

Double standards are a bitch and we seem to be falling on the wrong side of a lot of them here in D.C. recently.

Other than that, the Caps game last night represented another very satisfying victory. We’re gonna lose one of these days, but the way the boys are playing, it’s hard to imagine it’s gonna be tomorrow against Tampa, the last team to beat us.   (I can’t believe I just jinxed my own team).

Neuvirth was great last night and the defense is continuing to do a great job of clearing folks away from the front of the net.  Florida really likes to dirty up the game and the Caps did not allow the Florida forecheck to execute.  Our defense kept the puck moving and the offense was its usual potent self. 

When we scored right after Florida tied it up, you could sense that Florida, who had worked so hard to get their only goal, lost a lot of life.    The intensity on all 4 lines and commitment to sound defensive hockey that the Caps demonstarted again last night was awesome to see. 

These days, we harass opposing teams when they have the puck and share the puck when we are on the attack. We clear the net on defense and attack the net on offense. We kill penalties and score on the PP.  It’s complete team hockey.

Let’s do a little stats timeout for the Caps:

We have the #1 and #2 players in the NHL in +/- in OV and Schultz.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have the best +/- as a team in the league.

OV is second in goals and second in points.

We have three players (OV, Backstrom and Semin) in the top 15 in points.  (San Jose does too by the way).

We also have three players (OV, Green and Backstrom) who are in the top 7 in assists.  (San Jose cannot boast about that).

We’re #1 in goals scored and #12 in goals against which is not too bad. (By the way, San Jose is #2 in goals scored and #4 in goals against – not too shabby).

Anyway, we all know, as well as the Caps, that right now it’s all about tuning up for the playoffs and staying healthy.  #1 seed in the East or the President’s trophy would be nice, but as San Jose and Boston showed last year, #1 seeds  don’t mean sqaut in the playoffs.

Hope I didn’t jinx us for tomorrow………………..

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Dagger!!!

Little man B celebrates his game-winning, last-second shot as the Wizards beat the Nets 81-79.

The Wizards beat the Nets 81-79 last night.  What is the real story though is how I was able to watch this whole game after I turned off the Caps game at around 10 pm last night.  Fighting of fatigue and the little voice that kept telling me that I would never be able to get back the 90 minutes of my life I would spend watching this game on my DVR,  I was actually able to watch this entire game.  

You may call me insane.  I like to think of myself as possessing great spiritual fortitude.

 Last night’s games against the Nets was one of the most un-remarkable sporting events in recent history.  The highlight of the game definitely was hearing Buckhantz bust out his “Dagger” as little man B, Earl Boykins, drained the winning jumper with less than 1 second left in the game. 

The sad part about all of this is that “Dagger”, as far as I know, was first used by Buckhantz for Arenas and he used it for game-winning shots that were a helluva lot more important than the sad display of basketball I watched last night. 

And as great as Little man B has been for the Wiz this year, he’s no Arenas.

Props to the Wizards bench for playing tough, smart, unselfish basketball and basically beating the Nets’ starters by themselves.  Let’ see what happens tonight against the Knicks.

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Tidbits from section 406

Now for those of you who read this blog, you know that I am a season-ticket holder for the Redskins and after each home game, I like to write about things that were happening at the stadium that folks at home may not have been aware of as well as my view of the game from the stands, which is quite distinct from what you see on television.

Today, I want to talk about what goes on at a typical Caps game. 

First of all, Verizon is much smaller than FedEx so you can see and hear things that are happening all around the arena.   As such, you can hear a variety of different things coming out from different pockets of the arena. 

Let me start from the beginning:  During the Star-Spangled Banner, Caps fans like Redskins and all other D.C. and Baltimore fans, scream “O” when the singer gets to the line at the end of the song ” O Say does that star-spangled….”.    I believe that this tradition comes from the Baltimore Orioles fans who injected the “O” to emphasize who they are rooting for at the game.  This tradition has spread throughout the area.  Caps fans add a throaty “Red” when the singer gets to “And the rockets red glare” in the national anthem- of course representing the central color of the Capitals.

Cowbells are allowed into the arena which I think is awesome.  Fedex should do that.  So people play the cowbells all night.  The jumbotron even has a skit from Saturday Night Live imploring the fans to play more cowbell.  Anytime a Caps player gets on a breakaway or if OV just is skating up-ice with the puck, the cowbells go off. 

Now, when the opposing team scores and the PA announcer gives credit to who scores and who got the assists, rather than sit back in sullen silence, Caps fans wait ’till the announcer is done and then yell “Who cares?”

This next one is a little tricky, but I have seen it happen now three times at Caps games, but when the Caps reach four goals and after the PA announcer gives the breakdown of the goal, fans behind the visiting goalie chant this:  “1, 2, 3, 4, it’s all your fault”.  For each goal the Caps score after 4, the number goes up. This is usually followed by the crowd tauntingly yelling the goalies name.  On Wednesday night it sounded like this:  “Gi-guere. Gi-guere.” 

Now this year, there is a new tradition which is if the Caps score 5 goals, all the fans get free wings.  So the Caps wisely have turned this into a rallying point during games.  So after Semin scored the Caps’ 4th goal on Wednesday night, the Jumbotron staring imploring us ot chant “We want wings”.  It added yet another level of excitement to what at that point had become a blow-out.

Then of course there is the excellent organ player who doesn’t have to play generic arena songs like “Zorba the Greek, If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” and other such classics, but rather plays unique chants for the Caps.  The songs go in rhythm like:  “C-A-P-S Caps, Caps, Caps.”  Or, “Let’s go Ca-pi-tals”. 

Then there is the famous dood with the bull horn who plays his horn three times and is greeted with the rest of the crowd screaming “Let’s go Caps”.  In addition to this, there are various sections of the stadium all doing any combination of all three of these chants I just mentioned when there is no bull horn or organ playing.  Most of the time these chants are not synchronized creating an even greater effect of mayhem.

Then there is the ‘Unlesh the Fury’ video whic his saved for close games in the 3rd period where the crowd goes extra wild, screaming their heads off to support the team in the final minutes of a game.  Last game, the jumbotron, with about 4 minutes left and the Caps ahead 5-1,  instead played a long ”  Victory” video.  And sure enough, when there was a moment of the video where a little kid screamed at the top of his lungs, the crowd in perfect unison sung along with him.

At the end of the game, the three stars were announced as S. Morrision, OV and Semin from bottom to top and each came out, thanked the crowd, skated to a spot on the ice and threw a puck gently into the stands for a souvenir.  Pretty cool.  Many folks stayed after the game was done, rather than shuffle quickly out of the stadium, to cheer our heros on.

Most of these chants and traditions have been started by season ticket holders, but it’s cool that someone like me who has now been to 8 games in the last two years can pick up on what is going on a be part of the fun.  I’ve been to Caps games in other cities and I’ve never seen anything even close to this.

Every team in every city thinks their fans are the best and I think there are a lot of good fans out there.  Not only are the Caps fans great fans, but I have never been to any kind of sporting event where the crowd is as unique in their interaction as they are at a Caps game.  It’s worth checking out. 

If anyone has any amendments or additions to what I wrote, please mention them as I would like to learn more about the craziness that occurs when folks rock the red.

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Once again, Alexander Semin dominates as he scores two goals, (the 1st of which is pictured above), in the Caps 5-1 win over Anaheim last night at Verizon.

Silly me to let my wife’s psycho-babble get me worried that the Caps would lose last night. 

Silly me to worry that the Caps would play down to a hungrier opponent.

Sill me to worry about a team winning when the team is as good as the Caps. 

Well, I may have to amend that last statement. 

I went on the radio with LaVar Arrington yesterday and told him and the greater D.C. area about all the reasons why I am confident the Caps have a chance to win it all this year.  I told him about OV and Schultsz’ excellent +/-.  I told him about our balanced scoring.  I told him about how we are doing a better job at keeping opponents to 2 goals or less and when we do that, we have only lost once out of 28 games this year.  All these things are true.

Then I lied to him and said I would not be dissapointed if we don’t win the Stanley Cup this year.  I actually said that I would be ok with the season if we made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  I should be ashamed of myself for making such a bold-faced lie to the millions of people listening at the time.

‘Cause let’s face it, right now the Caps are winners.

Last night, Neuvirth was excellent.  He let a few rebounds out, but mostly he smothered the puck.  The one goal he let in was on a rebound which maybe he should have corralled, but frankly, if the defense had done a better job of clearing the zone and covering their men, that goal would have never happened.  Aside, from a couple of bad clears, one by Bradley and one by Green, from what I could see, there were no other mistakes made on the ice by the Caps last night.

So while they played almost mistake-free hockey, the Caps  kept the pressure on and the damn finally burst in the 3rd period. The goals happened so fast that we hadn’t even finished cheering Morrison’s goal when Knuble scored and when we had just sat down after celebrating Knuble’s goal, Semin scored.  (The 1st and 2nd goals happened so fast that the announcer re-started his breakdown of Morrison’s goal – flashing his picture up on the scoreboard and the whole nine yards –  since the whole announcement was thwarted by Ovechkin’s beautiful fake which led to #22’s latest goal).  

For the third game in a row, Alexander Semin is the 1st star and is the one pictured here in a post.  You almost wish you could save all of team’s play, including his, for April and May and hopefully June, but all the same, it was a pleasure to see how amazing he played.  He should have had an assist on the Caps’ 1st power-play when he made an incredible pass to Eric Fehr whose shot was stopped point blank by Giguere. 

Other than that it was nice to see Neuvirth play so well, nice to see Pothier return, nice to see us win so many faceoffs, nice to see the boys move the puck as well as they did and nice to see the defense again play a solid game where it looked like not that many of Neuvirth’s 30 saves were really all that hard. 

It’s a lot more fun to leave games with a win then a loss.

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Crime and Punishment

If it’s true that Arenas told David Stern that the latter should suspend Arenas for the rest of the season then I am even further convinced that Arenas was punished unjustly.   Since the beginning of this whole thing, Arenas has been forthcoming about his participation in what the NBA has deemed to be a heinous crime and has not tried to deceive anyone.  That’s the kind of behavior that used to be rewarded with some leniency.

I have made my case here before for Arenas and believe that he has gotten a raw deal, but last night as I sat in the Verizon Center and cheered on our beloved Caps, my heart intoxicated with victory, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad knowing that something akin to what I was feeling in section 406 of the Verizon Center used to be felt by me and many others when the Wizards were playing.  And while the calendar says that all of that excitement from the Wizards, led by Gilbert Arenas, took place only a few years ago, it really feels like a lifetime since Arenas sunk that game-winner against the Jazz one afternoon in January, 2006.

So there will be no redemption story here, no return of one of D.C. biggest heros in recent memory.  Yesterday, any faint delusions I had of Arenas and the Wizards regaining some kind of minimal glory in the near future dissipated.  So just as Arenas continues his real-world punishment, us the fans will slog on through ours, carrying in our hearts the weight of a team that again has no direction.

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Make no mistake, this Alex is also great. Semin skates during the Caps 7-2 drubbing of the New York Islanders - a game in which Semin had two goals and was +3.

After the Caps beat Phoenix on Saturday night, my wife asked me whether the Caps were playing anyone between then and this Wednesday.  I responded and told her that we were playing the Islanders.  When I asked why, she responded that she knew I was going to the game on Wednesday against Anaheim and that she figured that with a six, (now seven) game winning streak going, the Caps are bound to lose at some point and she didn’t want it to be when I was at the game since I had had this game against Anaheim circled on my calendar for so long.

Well the Caps clearly weren’t worried about what my wife was thinking when they took the ice last night against the Islanders.  They put on another butt-kicking that was just a little less worse than the 8-1 victory over Atlanta. 

Some people say that the Caps are becoming a hated team in the NHL.  The reason may be that if this season, a home team does not bring their ‘A game” against the Caps, we might just blow them out of the water in the 1st period like we did last night.

Once again, the Caps only gave up 2 goals and they won.  Once again, Alexander Semin was the best player on the ice by a long shot.  He took one dumb penalty, but he was really playing both sides of the rink last night.  His focus on being in the right place defensively has really been impressive of late.

Much has been made recently of Boudreau keeping all his line together and I don’t think the effect this has had on the team can be overstated as we continue to see the Caps click on all cylinders.

So tonight, me and buddy Ryan from section 449 at Fedex will be going to the phone booth downtown to cheer on the Caps as they play against Anaheim.  I will be sitting in the same section my wife and I sat in when I saw us beat the Sabres in late December. We will be cheering and yelling with all the other folks ‘rockin’ the red’, wondering in our hearts whether we can maintain this amazingly high level of play against a hungry, desperate Anaheim team.

It’s certainly a unique kind of  uneasiness the likes of which Ryan and I  have not experienced at a  Redskins game any time in the recent past, but leave it to me to feel uneasy about a team that has won 7 games in a row and just beat a decent team, on the road 7-2. 

For those of you watching on T.V., look for me and Ryan in the upper-deck above the goal the Caps shoot on in the 1st and 3rd period. 

We’ll be wearing red.

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The Wretched of the Earth

So I did not follow my knee-jerk reaction from Sunday’s loss to the Clippers and instead followed my instinct – I watched last night’s game against the Lakers.  The Wizards didn’t play badly, just not well enough to beat the Lakers, a team we probably couldn’t beat had this season been going great. 

Brandon Haywood played well.  I think the Wizards really need to consider re-signing him for next year even if they blow this thing up.  He is finally playing like he we have expected since he was drafted.  The only thing that makes you concerned would be if he is playing this well in a contract year and going to dial it back next year after he gets paid.  Also, if the Wizards do blow this thing up, with Haywood back next year, would Javale McGee ever get the minutes he needs to finally learn how to effectively utilize his incredible athleticism in the NBA? 

The rest of this post will be dedicated to the wrteched of the earth – the Lakers fans who are from D.C. and who went to last night’s game. 

Who are these people?  They choose to be Lakers fans because the Lakers win all the time and they are one of the historic franchises in the NBA.  They support an arrogant ass like Kobe Bryant and call him the greatest ever. They sit in their homes all year cheering their team on in isolation and then when the Lakers arrive in town, they pull out their pristine #24 or #8 jersey which they never wear at any other time during the year and they go down to the Verizon Center and gloat.

Now, it’s on our team to shut them up and we haven’t been able to beat the Lakers here in D.C. since 2005. 

But all the same, these people really make me ill.  There are other fans like this around here and frankly everywhere I’ve been in the country.  Teams like the Cowboys, Yankees, Red Sox, Celtics. 

But it really makes you wonder, when the Lakers won their champioship last year, did these folks sit in their homes by themselves and pop some bubbly while the next morning their beloved team’s championship went unnoticed in the larger D.C. area? 

Some people say I shouldn’t worry so much about folks like this, but it really gets to me for some reason.

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